Five Tips for Buying a Used RV

Derrek Sigler
by Derrek Sigler

Traveling and camping are a great deal of fun. There are so many excellent new RVs on the market, it makes you want one even more. I know the feeling. As I sit and write about them, I can’t help but think how much fun it would be to go buy one, load up the family and head off to Alaska, or any of the other amazing destinations that an RV makes even better. Sadly, reality comes back into play and I know that affording a new RV is just not in the cards right now. But with a little investigative work, a great used RV is a distinct possibility. Here’s some tips I used to buy a quality used RV.

Research the Company

Do some checking into the brand/company that made the RV you’re interested in. Sites like this one are great for seeing what the latest offerings are from these companies. Is the company still in business? Do they still produce the model you’re looking at? If the answer is no to either of these, find out what the latest equivalent is. This is important because if there is a specific part that you need to repair at some point, you’re going to want to know that you’ll be able to find it.

Inspect the Roof

The roof on an RV takes the brunt of the wear. I know what you’re thinking – “How’s that?” The roof handles all the weather and gets hammered by UV rays. This has a tendency to cause excessive wear on the roof. Even if the person you’re buying from says that the RV was kept under a tarp, or indoors, check the roof and ceiling for signs of leaking seals, water damage, and wear and tear. If you see much of this, keep looking. Repairing a damaged roof is expensive and can make that great deal a real stinker.

Check the Miles

On a motorhome, that’s pretty easy to do. When it comes to a travel trailer, not so much. You can, however, take a look at the hubs on the axles to see if they’re properly greased. If it has trailer brakes, ask to see a service record for the brake pads and make sure everything works as it should. A bad bearing or brake hub can lead to disaster in short order.

Canvas and Upholstery

If the RV has any expandable section with canvas, make sure it isn’t ripped or full of nasty mold and mildew. Rips can be fixed. Holes are a little harder to patch, but it’s do-able. Moldy canvas is pretty hard to fix and is a huge sign of neglect. Mildew in the upholstery is another thing to look for. It can be cleaned, but is a sure sign of neglect. If that’s the case, what else needs to be fixed?


Check the electrical connections, both inside and outside the RV. Anyone who’s ever towed a trailer knows the struggles of trailer lights. Their importance only slightly overshadows the frustration of getting them to work. Internally, make sure that anything connected to the wiring is tight and ask to check that everything works as it should before you plunk down the cash.

For those of you that bought a used RV, what did you look for? What nightmares have you found that you wish someone had told you about? Share in the comment section!